In recognizing the serious problem of domestic violence in our community, the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court initiated the Domestic Violence Early Intervention Program (EIP).
This program targets domestic violence offenders with no prior domestic violence or violent felony convictions. The goal of EIP is to intervene as early as possible in domestic violence cases to prevent recurrence of the incident and possible progression to more serious crimes.
The EIP court staff team consists of a program judge and four probation officers. This team maintains a close relationship with counseling professionals, victim advocates, and prosecution and defense attorneys involved in the case.
All EIP participants are assessed for treatment for possible underlying issues such as mental health disorders or substance abuse. The program’s duration is a minimum of twenty–four weeks and all participants are held accountable with supervision conditions. Non–compliance issues are dealt with immediately. Should a participant be removed from the program for non–compliance, the case will be returned to the original judge and placed back on the court docket.
EIP is a pre–prosecution program and participants are not required to plea to a specific charge. The underlying charge(s) will be dismissed for successful participants.
Eligibility for the program requires voluntary participation by the defendant and a recommendation by the Court. Additional requirements in regard to suitability and eligibility are reviewed by a program probation officer. The factors include but are not limited to a thorough criminal history check, attempted contact with the victim; defendant's willingness to recognize and be accountable for his/her actions during the present violation, to engage and complete domestic violence counseling, to comply with the conditions of supervision, and to undergo random drug and alcohol screening. The program judge then decides upon acceptance to the program. Upon successful completion of the DVEIP program, the defendant's case is dismissed by the program judge as agreed upon.
The Honorable Courtney Weaks presides over the DVEIP program in addition to her regular court docket. Her DVEIP team consists of a program supervisor and four DVEIP probation officers, two of which are Spanish-speaking. The average caseload for the DVEIP Officer is 50 DVEIP program participants/defendants. Court is held every other week for participants in the program. The DVEIP program has one of the lowest recidivism rates of any specialty court program and this low rate of recidivism has been consistent since the inception of the program.
Traditional EIP Track
This track provides services for domestic violence offenders involving intimate partners. This track involves supervision and recognized domestic violence treatment.
The Family Track of EIP consists of participants who are involved in domestic violence incidents with a family member such as a parent or sibling. Along with probation supervision, Family Track participants may also be required to attend anger management counseling in addition to or in lieu of domestic violence treatment.
In certain instances, participants may have already been enrolled in domestic violence treatment prior to entering EIP. Should the participant complete the required treatment prior to the required twenty–four week period of EIP, the probation officer will monitor the participant until completion of the required time period.
A separate track has been established for veterans of military service charged with domestic violence. There are a variety of unique issues for the veterans of any era, including exposure to trauma resulting in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The needs of veterans have been highlighted due to the high numbers of individuals returning to military life from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A growing body of experience and research throughout the United States indicates that separate tracks or courts for veterans involved with the criminal justice system can utilize the benefits of the camaraderie among veterans and the assistance of the Veterans Administration to support recovery from substance abuse disorders and mental illness leading to reduced recidivism.
The Honorable Sandra Engel presides over this court with a team consisting of the veterans justice outreach coordinator from the VA, two probation officers, treatment providers, and representatives from the Law Offices of the Public Defender and the District Attorney’s office. Participants meet with the judge once per month.